For an analysis of what Sadiq Kahn’s win in the London Mayoral election means, read John Curtice’s piece from Saturday
Last week Britain had “Super Thursday”: Brits voted in local, regional, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections. Labour now has control of 58 councils—and 1,326 councillors—while the respective numbers for the Conservatives are 38 and 842. However, Opposition parties of the last few decades have made gains in equivalent elections, while on Thursday Labour lost 18 council seats.
In Wales, Labour lost one seat in the country’s Assembly but remains the largest party in the country. The SNP remains by far the largest party in Scotland, but has also lost its majority in the Scottish Parliament. Labour did very poorly north of the border, and the Scottish Conservatives are now the second largest party in the country.
So, what should the party leaderships take away from all this? A panel from across the political spectrum—including Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister for Wales, and Rob Halfon, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, offer their views.
A good result after six years in government
Rob Halfon, Conservative Party Deputy Chairman
This a strong performance for a party that has been in government for six years. We have achieved an historic result in Scotland under Ruth Davidson’s leadership and made significant gains in both the Police and Crime Commissioner elections and in local councils. This shows that when we protect families’ finances, protect the NHS and work hard to create opportunity for everyone we win public support.
In contrast, the Labour Party suffered their worst result in Scotland since 1910, lost ground in the Welsh Assembly for the first time since 2007 and failed to gain the hundreds of seats opposition parties would expect the year after a general election. Labour were always going to do well in London because they did well there in last year’s general election. But, overall the results across the country show that the Labour Party has lost touch with working people.
Carwyn Jones will be happy
Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister of Wales
There is an almost exact symmetry between the outcome of the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament elections. In both cases the ruling party, Labour in Wales and the SNP in Scotland, have slipped a little bit. Both have lost their majority. Labour by one seat in Wales and the SNP by two seats in Scotland.
The curiosity is that this is being reported as a triumph for the SNP in the Scottish Parliament and a failure by Labour in Wales! How do you work that one out? All ruling parties are there to be shot at, come election time. Both the SNP and Welsh Labour were attacked by other parties on the issue of whether they have delivered. The results were similar in both instances.
What Labour needed to do in Wales was hold its marginal seats, the ones lost to the Tories in last year’s General Election—a miracle year for the Tories in Wales. Labour pulled that off, holding Cardiff North, the Vale of Glamorgan, Vale of Clwyd and Gower and resisting Liberal Democrat assault on Cardiff central and in Plaid Cymru’s big target seat of Llanelli. Job Done then for Labour? No. Plaid Cymru’s Leader Leanne Wood won the Rhondda from Labour’s Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews.
Carwyn Jones, Labour’s Leader and the returning First Minister will govern, facing a huge steel crisis. His other problem is how to run Wales when he is one short of a majority. That will become critical when the annual budget negotiations start in the Autumn. Still, he must be a happy and relieved Labour Leader. Why? Because he has exceeded expectations!
As Scotland’s official opposition, the responsibility is huge
Ross Thomson, a Scottish Conservative and Unionist MSP for north east Scotland
It is has been an extraordinary election which has shaken up Scottish politics. Under the strong and energetic leadership of Ruth Davidson the Scottish Conservatives are now Scotland’s second biggest party. There are many people across the country who had never voted for us before, who do not consider themselves Conservative, who gave us their trust in this election. We are very much on probation.
We promised that we would have a clear job to do as an opposition. We now have a huge responsibility to fulfil as the official opposition charged with holding the SNP to account. We will do this on education (where their record is poor), the economy, Common Agricultural Policy payments to farmers, the named person scheme, usurping the powers of local councils and centralising our police force. We will also stand-up to the SNP and their ultimate “dream” of independence.
Our job will be demanding, it will be tough, but boy are we up that challenge!”
No-one expected a Lib-Dem breakthrough—but we have grounds for optimism
Norman Lamb, The Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Health Spokesperson
After suffering a crushing and near-fatal defeat last May, these elections were always going be a real test of the Liberal Democrats’ ability to bounce back. Nobody was expecting a massive breakthrough, but our performance does give real grounds for optimism about the future. In Scotland, we achieved two remarkable gains from the SNP in Edinburgh West and Fife North East. We have won council seats across England in places such as Merseyside, Manchester, and even Sunderland as the official opposition have struggled, while Kirsty Williams was re-elected with an increased majority in Brecon & Radnorshire in Wales.
These successes point to the conclusion that there is still a place for the Liberal Democrats in British politics. Amid the cold ideology of the Conservatives, the chaos of the Labour Party, and the divisiveness of Scottish Nationalism, people are still looking for that progressive, responsible and socially liberal voice. Those who predicted we would disappear completely have been left frustrated. We are rebuilding and gaining strength. Our task now is to be clearer than ever about what we stand for, and keep working tirelessly to rebuild people’s confidence, trust and belief.
Corbynite theories are being tested to destruction
Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government, King’s College, London
Jeremy Corbyn’s allies are full of passionate intensity. They believe that they represent a mass movement which is about to transform the political landscape. Their theory is currently being tested to destruction.
Corbyn’s moderate opponents, by contrast, lack all conviction. Sadiq Khan’s victory in London provides them with a new excuse to do nothing. Until the Parliamentary Labour Party summons up the courage to declare no confidence in its leader, the party will not regain the confidence of the country, and will not deserve to regain it. Nothing less than a radical transformation allowing Labour once again to represent the real aspirations of real people will save it, and provide the country with a functioning opposition. In their heart of hearts, most Labour MPs know this, but, instead of resolute action, they imitate Hamlet, sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought. Politicians who lack confidence in themselves deserve to fail.
This week’s “Big question” was put together by Alex Dean and Alice Grahns